On 2/23/07, I wrote this post, “US Dept. of Ed breaches prohibition on interfering w/state, local officials re: curriculum; spending billions improperly.”
My February post provides plenty of answers as to why the Reading First program is under investigation, but this part alone angers me:
The Education Department’s inspector general, John P. Higgins Jr., said he has made several referrals to the Justice Department about the five-year-old program, which provides grants to improve reading for children in kindergarten through third grade.
Higgins declined to offer more specifics, but Christopher J. Doherty, former director of Reading First, said in an interview that he was questioned by Justice officials in November. The civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office for the District, which can bring criminal charges, is reviewing the matter.
Doherty, one of the two Education Department employees who oversaw the initiative, acknowledged yesterday that his wife had worked for a decade as a paid consultant for a reading program, Direct Instruction, that investigators said he improperly tried to force schools to use. He repeatedly failed to disclose the conflict on financial disclosure forms.
“I’m very proud of this program and my role in this program,” Doherty said in the interview. “I think it’s been implemented in accordance with the law.”
The Ed. Dept.’s inspector general report outlines incident after incident of where people with school districts detail the Doherty’s efforts to get them to use his wife’s program.
Even a major supporter of President Bush sees serious problems:
Another researcher, Sharon Vaughn, worked with Kame’enui, Simmons and Good to design Voyager Universal Literacy, a program that Reading First officials urged states to use. Vaughn was director of a center at the University of Texas that was hired to provide states advice on selecting Reading First tests and books.
The publisher of that product, Voyager Expanded Learning, was founded and run by Randy Best, a major Bush campaign contributor, who sold the company in 2005 for more than $350 million. Now Best runs Higher Ed Holdings, a company that develops colleges of education, where former education secretary Roderick R. Paige is a senior adviser and G. Reid Lyon, Bush’s former reading adviser, is an executive vice president.
“I’m very disappointed and saddened by the information that was provided at the hearing today,” said Lyon, who had been a strong defender of Reading First, which he said had nothing to do with his new job. “The issues appear much more serious than I had been led to understand.”
And last but not least, here’s how we know our founding fathers would be crying over the broken checks and balances system they devised because of essentially one party rule for so long:
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who declined to comment yesterday, has said management problems with Reading First “reflect individual mistakes.” But Doherty said nearly every aspect of the program was carefully monitored by the department and the White House, where Spelling was Bush’s top education adviser.
“This program was always firmly under the watch and control of the highest levels of the government,” Doherty said.
P.S.: expect ends justify the means explanations because, according to the WaPo piece:
Despite the controversy surrounding Reading First’s management, the percentage of students in the program who are proficient on fluency tests has risen about 15 percent, Education Department officials said. School districts across the country praise the program.